How Long Can Chicken Salad Sit Out?

You’ve ordered too much chicken salad because your eyes were a bit bigger than your stomach again and haven’t finished it. You aren’t anywhere near a fridge, but will leaving it on the counter for a few hours really do any major harm to the food? 

This is something everyone has asked themselves when they just need to keep food out for a few hours until their next meal. In the case of chicken salad, it can sit out longer than you might think!

If you set the chicken salad out at room temperature, then the most it can stay out is two hours. If it has been longer than two hours, you should probably discard the chicken salad as the harmful bacteria have already begun to grow. Additionally, if it is a hot day (90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), then the bacteria growth and the process of spoilage will be even faster and you should discard it after one hour.

If you place chicken salad inside of the fridge, then it will last about 3-5 days if it is stored properly (more on that below), and it will just need to be warmed up before you eat it. You shouldn’t freeze chicken salad as the various ingredients that are high in moisture will be affected by the time in the freezer.

For example, the lettuce will lose its crunch, the tomatoes will become mushy, any mayonnaise dressings will separate, and the taste profile just won’t be the same. So don’t store your chicken salad in the freezer if you want it to still taste the same!

How To Store Chicken Salad

Again, almost all types of chicken salads are going to last about 3-5 days in the fridge, but you do need to store them correctly. If you want your chicken salad to still taste the same whenever you bring it back to room temperature to eat it, you need to store them by using one of these methods.

Airtight Container Storage

Airtight containers keep out bugs, pests, moisture, and of course air as well. All of these factors can contribute to the growth of bacteria oh the food, which can cause it to go bad and is also one of the things we want to avoid. Make sure that whatever airtight container you use, whether it is glass or plastic, that it is indeed airtight and sealed perfectly with no gaps or other cracks where the air can get inside.


This really isn’t recommended because the high moisture content of the chicken salad ingredients will ruin the taste and texture of the food. You can freeze chicken salad to stop it from going bad, but it isn’t going to taste the same when you thaw it back out.

Fridge Temperatures

Chicken salad can last about 3-5 days in a fridge, and the best temperature for optimum storage is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder because that will be the best storage temperature for your cooked chicken. Eating improperly stored cooked chicken, or chicken that was not stored at the correct temperature, can cause health risks.

How To Tell If Chicken Salad Is Bad

Whether it has been sitting on the counter for a long time or has been tucked away at the back of the fridge, you need to know if chicken salad is bad because you don’t want to eat spoiled food and risk your health.

While you can certainly choose to eat chicken salad that has gone bad and can risk your health, eating spoiled food- chicken especially- can lead to food poisoning, health risks, and problems for your stomach.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways for you to know that the expiration date for your chicken salad has passed.

An Unpleasent Smell 

You can use your nose on the chicken salad, because if it has any sour or unpleasant smells coming from it, then that can be a very large indicator that the chicken salad has gone bad. Additionally, you can look over the salad with your eyes and see if anything looks molded, browned, or extremely wilted.


If the chicken is slimy, or any other part of the salad has a slimy or an overly wet texture, then you need to toss the salad because it isn’t worth risking your health. Plus, the salad probably won’t taste very good anyway, because who wants to eat anything slimy?

How Long It Has Been Sitting Out

The maximum amount of time your chicken salad should sit outside at normal temperature is 2 hours, in hot temperatures it should sit out for 1 hour, and it can last in the fridge for 3-5 days. While eating set out chicken salad that’s been out for three hours or so probably won’t kill you or cause any stomach pain, the longer you wait to eat the chicken salad the riskier the food becomes.

So make sure that if you plan to have chicken salad stay out, that you do your best to eat it as quickly as possible. Or just put it in the fridge because you don’t want to have it out for a few days on the kitchen counter.


Chicken salad is a wonderful dish made up of a lot of different ingredients, however, the longer that you let the chicken salad sit out at room temperature, the more mold and other negative things like bacteria can get on the food. Then your chicken salad doesn’t just become unpleasant to eat, but it also becomes unsafe and can lead to severe food poisoning and other illnesses.

So if you want to be safe while eating your chicken salad, and also enjoy your egg salad at the peak of its taste, texture, and freshness… eat it when you get it! Your taste buds and your health will certainly thank you, and you will get a very good meal too!